Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Cuyjet, Michael J.

Author's Keywords

Spirituality; Identity; Freshmen; Beliefs; Values; Kentucky; College students


College freshmen--Conduct of life; College freshmen--Religious life--Kentucky; College freshmen--Kentucky--Attitudes


Students entering college for the first time are embarking on a life-changing journey like none they have experienced. The potential impact the college experience will have on their lives is extreme. Students will be engaged in class and co-curricular settings in ways that will challenge them to produce developmental growth that will carry them through emerging adulthood into adulthood. (Barry & Nelson, 2005) The importance of this time points to the necessity of colleges and universities ensuring that they are providing the best and most holistic educational experience possible. This study was a comparison of the level of student interest in spirituality among freshmen students that attend a state-supported, public university and a private, religiously affiliated college in Kentucky. Research questions were focused on students' spiritual beliefs and values. Based on survey data collected from 579 students, the research indicated that statistically significant differences exist among the two student populations of this study in 5 of 12 constructs utilized in this study: Indicators of students' spirituality, Spirituality, Ecumenical worldview, Social/political views of students, and Physical well-being. While significant, the point-biserial correlations indicated a small amount of variance in each of these constructs could be attributed to institutional type. This study reveals that regardless of institutional type, students are highly interested in spirituality or the development of their interior life. This interior development can be "contrasted to the objective domain of observable behavior and material objects that you can measure directly" (Astin, 2004, p. 34). Further, the interior domain is noted to include human consciousness or those private experiences in one's subjective awareness. Accordingly, institutions of higher education have an opportunity to increase their ability to address the holistic education of their students by integrating spirituality based curricular and co-curricular policies and programming to create educational environments that balance more appropriately the development of the interior and exterior lives of their students. This new knowledge can inform appropriate educators of the current assessment of student interest in the area of spirituality and create opportunities for discussion regarding appropriate actions to initiate the necessary institutional, curricular, and co-curricular interventions necessary to address the changing interests.